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With a tiny population and vast distances between towns and communities, Australia’s huge top end can be a tough old place.

Service delivery in remote communities can be problematic, with children in some rural and remote communities not receiving adequate early learning and developmental support.

One organisation helping to alleviate this ongoing problem is Smile-A-Mile, a government funded group that has been running ‘Fun Bus’ play sessions and a mobile toy library since 1987.

Based in Coolalinga, south of Darwin, Smile-A-Mile’s mobile service is designed to enable rural and remote families to access toys and play equipment for their children. Parents and children spend two hours at the play sessions in a range of activities from arts and crafts to building and physical education.

“Our ‘Fun Bus’ venues are for parents, carers, and extended family members to bring their children along for a great morning’s entertainment,” says Lynley Wilson-Nichols, Smile-A-Mile’s mobile service team member, and one of the five staff who run the programme.

“It’s a great opportunity for children to have fun and learn at the same time, without having to travel huge distances.”

The ‘Fun Bus’ goes out on venue visits from Tuesday to Thursday every week from March to December, travelling approximately 400 to 680 kilometres per week.

Covering an approximate area of 28,000 square kilometres within the Northern Territory, the organisation’s long distance journeys have been made easier by purchasing an Isuzu NPR 200.

“We bought our current Isuzu in 2014 because our previous Isuzu model served us very well, and we got great service from Airpower Pinelands too,” Ms Nichols said.

“We travel long distances and our service is something that children and their families look forward to every week, so having a reliable truck is very important.”

Smile-A-Mile’s ‘Fun Bus’ provides children with an extensive range of toys and learning equipment. As such, a spacious interior and high payload capacity were key requirements when choosing a truck.

With a large Pantech body, and a GVM of 4,500 kg, the NPR 200 was more than up to the task.

“The amount of room for the equipment is one of our favourite features of the truck.

“We have plenty of space for everything, and we’ve even had shelving and brackets fitted inside to make sure they stay in place when we’re out on the road.”

Shelves weren’t the only modification the Smile-A-Mile team made to the truck.

As well as spotlights, a stone guard, sun visor and headlight protectors, the truck has been fitted with a refrigerator, water tank and long-range fuel tank.

“The fridge ensures we can have adequate food and drink supplies, and the long range fuel tank is obviously invaluable on long trips to remote places where few services are around.”

With gravel roads common to rural parts of the Northern Territory, a powerful workhorse was also an important requirement. Equipped with a SiTEC Series III 155 engine, offering maximum power of 114 kW @ 2,600 rpm, the NPR is well able to cope with the rough terrain.

It’s also a comfortable ride, thanks in no small part to the Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) feature, as well as the driver suspension seat.

“On long journeys, we really appreciate the comfort it offers. It’s very good to drive,” she says.

The NPR’s reversing camera also comes in handy for the crew.

“When you have small children around, you can’t be too careful,” she says. “The reversing camera is a great help when it comes to helping us drive safely. That’s a big priority for us.”

With 16 communities served by Smile-A-Mile, the organisation, which was awarded a NT Education and Care Award for Outstanding Service in 2015, is going from strength to strength, and is already looking forward to a busy 2016.

“As well as the weekly play sessions, we organise annual community events during Children’s Week and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day with plenty of fun activities on offer.” Ms Nichols added.

“Events like this help to give children from remote areas the chance to mix with each other and to enjoy activities which city children can access more easily.

“The kids enjoy it, and we know that the parents and the communities really appreciate it too.”


The Australian Government provides financial support for this Budget Based Funded Child Care Service under the Community Support Programme

For further information, please contact:                
Jeff Birdseye                                                          
Marketing Manager                                                  
Isuzu Australia Limited                                            
Phone: (03) 9644 6666

For Isuzu Truck Releases and Photos:
Arkajon Communications
Phone: (03) 9867 5611